Conspiracy Theory and the Perils of Pure Particularism

In M. R. X. Dentith (ed.), Taking Conspiracy Theories Seriously. London: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. 25-37 (2018)

Abstract

The epistemological literature on conspiracy theory has established that strict generalism about conspiracy theories is untenable. This chapter argues, however, that this does not license a move to naive or strict particularism. Rather, any consideration of specific conspiracy claims needs to address conspiracy theory not simply as a formal category of explanation, but as a distinctive social practice, with a history and explanatory repertoire that can give us important, if defeasible, reasons for rejecting at least some such types of claim. These reasons are not merely epistemic. The moral costs of participating in such practices, and of levelling conspiracy accusations in general, generate corresponding ethical requirements for reticence about entertaining conspiracy theories. This doesn’t mean we can retreat to generalism; but it does mean particularism must be governed by a reluctance that, in practice, will rule out a great many conspiracy theory claims as candidates for serious investigation.

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Patrick Stokes
Deakin University

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